This article is bit outside of my regular posts, but a recent experience left me feeling like I need to share this for a variety of reasons. One of those reasons is to help others be more prepared than I was for circumstances out of their control. In addition, it will explain why we haven’t posted much on our site recently.
Finally, sharing this story I think will help me a bit, as this was quite an adventure that was mentally and physically exhausting. This article is long, so I decided to put the tips at the beginning. If you want to read the story of why I thought these tips were important, continue below.
Here are my mental health tips for you if you’re planning on making any type of move cross country with all your stuff:
1. Check the rental truck over carefully, including the oil, and other fluids. Don’t assume the rental place did it. Pretend the last person that had the truck treated it in the worst possible way, and the rental employees are too lazy to do anything about it.
2. Get at least the basic insurance. It saved our butts in this case. Your regular insurance might not cover vehicles over a certain weight, so at least call and find out.
3. Allow extra time. If there are no trucks available the day you need them, change the date, or go with a different rental company. Don’t accept the last truck. And most importantly, always expect things to go wrong.
4. Pack your belongings as if you expect them to get flipped and turned sideways. You never know what will happen. We were fortunate nothing broke.
5. Don’t buy used trucks from these rental places. Clearly they don’t service them properly. Our truck only had 56,000 miles on it when we picked it up. 56,750 when it left us stranded on the side of the road, as we stared at the back of the broken truck with the sign “We have used trucks for sale”. I bet you do, this one will be next on that list.
6. Pack plenty of food, water, warm clothes/blankets, and even a bucket in case you need a toilet. No need to pee on the side of the road (yeah, easy for a guy, not a gal). This Self-Contained Toilet has good reviews on amazon (haven’t used it myself – but I was told by someone who has to use a medium weight kitchen bag with some clay based kitty litter in the bag to soak up the #1 and #2. keep extra bags in the container itself):
And if you like privacy, might not hurt to have one of these privacy pop-up tents tucked away behind a seat somewhere.
And don’t forget the hand sanitizer or soap and water with paper towels. You may be washing your hands on the side of the road as well.
7. Invest in battery packs for your cell phone. We were fortunate to also have a pickup truck that would allow us to charge our phones, but if we only had the rental truck, since that thing was dead, no way to charge a cell phone. And we used our cell phones more than we expected due to being stranded on the side of the road.
8. Get everything in writing. Everything. That’s hard to do when you’re negotiating extra days over the phone with rude or incompetent people. But have them send you an email stating this was your agreement.
9. Expect to break down and plan for it. Pack books to read, board games or cards if you have kids, or other entertainment. Don’t count on your electronics, you may not have service/internet where you break down, and you may need to conserve battery power. Gone are the days where people used to pull on the side of the road behind you to make sure you are alright and don’t need anything.
10. Have extra cash/credit available. You will be expected to cover everything up front (hotel, food, etc.), if you break down. You get reimbursed later (or so they say). And keep your receipts! You will need those receipts for any expected reimbursement.
11. Read reviews on hotels before choosing to stay somewhere last minute. Or else use trusted brands. I’ve found Motel 6 to allow dogs at every facility, be very accommodating, and only a few of their locations lack a microwave or mini-fridge, which isn’t bad for an inexpensive hotel (there’s still some Motel 6’s that are not updated, so check before choosing). They are always clean too, at least in my experience. My second choice is La Quinta. Again, I have big dogs, so if furry friends aren’t an issue, you may have other brands you trust.
12. Expect that the rental company could care less about you. They expect your rental to go as smooth as possible with no problems, and will only deal with you when something goes wrong. And they will probably be very bad at dealing with anything that goes wrong.
And if you doubt any of these invaluable tips, read below. This is a true story that happened to us just recently:
We had been looking to relocate for quite some time. We started our business in Klamath Falls OR, but that was a little too rural to get the business really going. So we started commuting back and forth to Reno, NV, where the business did much better. But we had to continue to commute, as I was not about to leave my loyal customers without product. We had finally grown enough where we needed to rent a real lab for our purposes, not the makeshift one we had put together by fitting expensive equipment in a tiny corner of a storage room. But this became a challenge, especially in Reno. Those who live in Reno know for a fact that cost of rents far exceed the median income, since income there has not caught up with the cost of living. Many people spend half their salary (or more) just to pay rent or mortgage. Even finding a place to rent can be a challenge, and don’t bother looking for places to live when school is starting, as you’re in competition with a lot of college kids. This very scenario led us to the decision that the only way to keep our costs affordable (which means keeping our product prices as low as we can considering the high quality of the raw ingredients we start with), we had to leave Reno, and look elsewhere.
After much research evaluating things like business laws, shipping estimates, and so on, we decided on Texas because that’s where the dart landed. Just kidding. It was because everything is bigger in Texas, so maybe our business will grow bigger too. Okay, seriously, rents are more affordable, and we thought the business would be more prosperous there, among other personal reasons. Now this is not an easy transition. And don’t worry, we have not officially fully transitioned yet. So if you’re worried about buying local, you’re still buying local for now, but surprise, we’re moving!
Planning Our Route
So we decided to start with the first phase of our move. We found a location to settle ourselves, and several potential locations for the production facilities. But no point in renting the production facilities until we get ourselves settled. So this is just phase one of our move.
We carefully decided what items to take to Texas and what to leave behind. We decided that all the production equipment currently in use would stay in Reno for now, while equipment we no longer use, or equipment we bought for future use will move. Then most of our personal belongings would move, other than what is immediately needed to live in Reno. Since we are still a small business (for now, but we have big plans!), we had to be careful about the costs we were going to incur for this move.
After reading horror story after horror story about items arriving damaged when having others handle the moving part, we decided that if our lab equipment was going to break, it would be due to our own fault. We decided to rent a moving truck, and drive it ourselves, rather than leaving it to someone else. Cost factor was associated with that as well. We had both a moving truck and our personal pick-up truck with a trailer to haul, plus two big dogs, and ourselves. After figuring the cost of the truck rental, gas, and hotel rooms, we decided it would still cost half as much to do this ourselves, not including our time of course. Big mistake on our part. The time factor bit us hard in the end.
A Budget Rental Truck
So, on a very strict time budget, with only a couple extra days to spare, we started to make our phase one move. We went online to reserve a rental truck, only to realize we should have done this a month sooner. There were hardly any trucks available, when a month earlier there were plenty. We didn’t know our exact dates for the move a month earlier, so we couldn’t have possibly planned correctly. But at that point we were limited. We decided to go with Budget, as they had the only truck in the size we needed that was available during our time frame. We ended up getting the truck two days early, but figured that was okay, we would either hit the road early, or take extra time packing it well so nothing would break.
We picked up the truck, paid for insurance and an extra driver, and went on our way. Now, I’ve rented many cars at airports, and never did it occur to me that perhaps I should check the fluids of a rental car; I actually don’t think anyone thinks about that. When you rent a car, you expect that the rental agency took care of that. So would that be any different when renting a moving truck? Not in my mind, so it didn’t even occur to me that the truck was never looked over. However it should have occurred to me, because at the time that we picked up the truck, we had to do an inspection to notate any dents/damage. Then as we were ready to leave, the Sparks, NV Budget employee decided last minute that he should check the inside of the box of the moving truck. We walked over to the back and he unrolled the door, and sure enough, a bunch of moving blankets were in there. He looked at us and implied “oops”, then offered the moving blankets, which we declined. Free or not, I didn’t need them nor did I want the extra responsibility of having to return more stuff. So he grabbed them and threw them on the ground behind the truck, and we were then on our way. Though that really should have been a clue as to what we would encounter on the road.
I won’t bore you with the details of planning and loading a moving truck with fragile items, but we figured out a system that worked. Even though we packed everything carefully in cardboard boxes with lots of padding, we still didn’t want to take chances as you never know when you have to hit the brakes. As Newton’s first law (the law of inertia) says that things in motion stay in motion, the last thing we wanted was for our fragile items to get squished and thus damaged. So the packing of the truck was a real art per say.
I was relieved that Rob said he would drive the loud 16ft Budget truck while I only had to tow a small trailer in our comfortable noise free pickup truck. And I had the luxury of the company of the dogs. We hit the road a half day behind schedule, but we were on our way. We had a list of potential hotel rooms that were dog friendly, and maps on our phones, back up paper maps in case our phones didn’t work, plus a basic knowledge of where we were going. We had traveled enough that we figured we could manage any issue that arose.
It was around 9pm when we reached our first destination, which was no where near as far as we wanted to get to on day one, but we were both too tired to keep driving. Unfortunately, we seemed a bit too late, as every hotel we hit, while dog friendly, had its last room just taken. We finally found another hotel who just happened to have one room left, and gulp, the price. We paid for it, then struggled to find parking for a 16 ft moving truck and a pick-up truck connected to a trailer. We ended up creating a parking space for the truck/trailer, then parked the moving truck across three parking spots. Figured if we took the last room, then there weren’t going to be that many more people trying to park.
Exhausted, we microwaved our pre-made organic meals that we had stored in a cooler, and fell asleep hoping that the rest of our adventure would not put us further behind schedule. After all, once we arrived at our destination, we still had to unload the truck, return the truck, and get me to the airport in time for my flight back to Reno. At least until Rob gets things set up where we can fully move and transition the business without too much interruption.
Day two was fairly uneventful, driving through miles of nothing. Our dogs had been on road trips before and were accustomed to the schedule. They usually went on a hunger strike, but so far so good. They were behaving and knew what to expect. They actually would just sleep most of the time. I felt bad for them, but figured it was just four days and three nights.
Already Behind Schedule, And Then…
The morning of day three everything started off well. The hotel we stayed at had truck parking and wasn’t very full. A healthy veggie omelette breakfast (though not organic, but you have to make exceptions occasionally) was acquired, and by 7:30 in the morning, we were on our way. We were only 750 miles into our trip, which was about 250 miles behind schedule. We figured we could push ourselves, and maybe do an extra 50 or a 100 miles that day, it might not be so bad. This was of course my hope, but I was not the one driving the really loud moving truck that required lots of muscle power to keep control of the overly sensitive steering wheel, while feeling every bump on the road.
“Actual photo of Rob while driving the rental truck. Haha.”
I went first as the GPS service on my phone seemed to do better than the GPS on Rob’s phone. As I pulled onto the freeway on-ramp, all was well. That was until I looked in my side mirrors and didn’t see the Budget truck anywhere behind me. I slowed down a bit and kept looking, and looking, nowhere in sight. I pulled over to the side of the road. Waited. Nothing. I tried calling but it went straight to voice mail… must have been no service. I waited a little longer. Nothing. Then I thought, did he pass me and I didn’t notice? We’ve been on the highway for just a few minutes. I decided to drive up a little bit more. If he did pass me, he would have seen me pull over, and he would be waiting for me up the road. So I decided to drive to the next exit, but by the time I reached the exit, still nothing; no Budget truck anywhere in sight. I knew immediately something was wrong. I took the next exit so I could turn around. Then my phone rang, he had service after all – sort of – poor service. The Budget truck had broken down, dead, on the side of the highway. By then I had turned around using the overpass of that exit and was heading west instead of east, until I saw the Budget truck sitting helpless on the eastbound side of the freeway. I took the next exit and turned around again. Pulled in behind the Budget truck, put on my hazard lights, and carefully got out of the truck (with semi-trucks zooming by at 75mph).
If you’ve traveled on highway 40 between Arizona and New Mexico, then you know this isn’t some back country road. This is a very heavily traveled road, mostly by semi trucks with a typical speed of 70+mph. The two lane highway in each direction was divided which helped, but the two lanes were not enough to be safely broken down on the side. By the time I had reached the broken Budget truck, and parked behind him, and safely made my way to the passenger side of the Budget truck, he had already called Budget roadside, and was waiting for a call back to find out what’s next.
At that moment, I felt utterly helpless. I quickly assessed how much food we had, water, blankets (it was very breezy and cold), and of course, we had the other pickup truck with the trailer, so we weren’t exactly stranded. But we also had thousands of dollars worth of equipment and personal items in our rental truck. Something we didn’t exactly want to leave unattended. And we didn’t know how long it was going to take for a mechanic to arrive. So we kind of had to stand by for when the mechanic showed up.
Six Quarts Low
The mechanic finally showed up an hour and a half later. Rob told him the symptoms before the truck broke down. Rob actually thought the transmission had failed based on the truck’s behavior. The mechanic looked under the hood and checked the oil. Dry. Nothing. He ended up adding 6 quarts of oil to an engine that normally takes 13. The truck wouldn’t start or even turn over. The battery seemed to be problematic as well. The mechanic needed a new battery to see if that would get it running, but to get a new battery, he had to get authorization from Budget. He told us he’d be back in a half hour. He left us alone on the side of the road, and an hour later he sent a text apologizing. He said he’s still on hold with Budget. He finally came back another hour later and put in the new battery. The truck started, but there was a loud knocking sound, and the engine died almost immediately. They tried again. Nothing. Blown engine, they figured. The OBD reader didn’t show any error codes. The mechanic then told us that he will report this to Budget, and we would need to be towed. However the closest heavy equipment towing company was 45 minutes away. So it would be at least a couple hours.
We decided to leave the Budget truck and go to the next gas station for a bathroom, to clean up, and maybe find some comfort food. Anything not to sit on the side of the road as semi’s were blaring past us with wide-load signs on them. The mechanic told us that Budget had wanted to send another rental truck for us to transfer our stuff to, but he told them that location was too dangerous to transfer all the contents of a box truck. We would have to be towed.
After we spent as much time as we felt was not rude at the tiny gas station, we returned to the Budget truck, and waited, and waited. The customer service from Budget during this entire process I can only describe as “deer in the headlights” bad.
State Line Dilemma
Several hours later we finally started to get calls back. They were sending a heavy -equipment tow truck (a “wrecker“) that was an hour and a half away. The problem they ran into was that we were on the border of Arizona and New Mexico, and that they had to find a tow truck that was not only a wrecker, but could legally tow in both states. That’s why it took so long. No one of course told us this while we were waiting. So I kept calling and calling, wanting to know why it was taking so long. I thought to myself, I’m already a day and a half behind schedule, and by the time this event is resolved it would be three. At this point, I wouldn’t make my flight. Since no one would tell me what the problem was until later, I just figured they were too busy for us, didn’t care that we were on the side of a dangerous road, or that we might be stuck here another night, so I kept annoyingly calling them making sure they didn’t forget about us.
It was during this wait time that my meditation practices really came in handy. First, when you rent a moving truck, they just say if you get in an accident you call this number, and if you break down you call this number. Easy peasy, done deal, all is well, next in line please. Well, these numbers are for a reason, and not exactly what one would expect. First, the customer service number, which is usually routed to another country, and their job is to sell you the rental. They will tell you that they can’t do anything for you, because they’re just customer service, and you can call back after you’ve returned the truck to discuss any compensation for the company’s incompetence. Then there’s the roadside assistance number. Their job is to assist you with breakages on the road and that’s it. They have nothing to do with extending the truck rental, or any other department. Then there’s the truck receiving office location, who is a separate contractor from the renting location, and they too can’t do anything about extending the truck rental. So you have to call the originating station, who was closed by that time, so I had to call back in the morning to extend the truck rental.
I assure you, I did not want to call back that location. The owner of that location was rude, inconsiderate, and a liar. I had called him earlier actually, because I was so upset over being broken down and finding out the truck was low six quarts of oil, that I called to ask him if he had records of service on the truck. Or at least a record of checking the truck over before handing me the keys. He basically told me that’s not his job (a classic line), that’s corporate’s responsibility, and that he gets what he gets for trucks and has no control over it. In other words, he did not, nor did anyone else, look over the maintenance of the truck when it was dropped off. And that’s when I remembered the blankets left in the back of the truck. If they didn’t check the box of the truck, they likely didn’t check the fluids either.
I was fuming. I tried every bit of meditation I have learned in the past, but none of it helped. Perhaps the sound of semi’s zooming past kept me from being able to clear my head. Instead, I felt my blood trying to boil. That irresponsible business owner put me and my family in danger. And he didn’t care. He even told me he’d been doing this for 30 years. Oh great, you’ve been screwing people over and putting them in danger for 30 years; yeah, that’s awesome. While I wish ill on no one, I have no kind words for him. And I still had to call him the next day to extend the contract of the truck.
The Wrecker Arrives
When the heavy equipment tow truck arrived, he put on his light behind the red triangle we set up behind our trailer for traffic to see us. It was dusk now, and watching the tow guy do his thing in the bitter cold wind made me appreciate what he did for a living. When the mechanic left hours earlier, I could tell he seemed disappointed he couldn’t help us, and I imagined this guy felt good about being able to get people off the side of the road. While we weren’t exactly stranded, as we had the other vehicle, we couldn’t exactly go far either, and other than a tiny gas station several miles West, there really wasn’t much nearby either. I suppose we could have driven to look at a different view of a different side of a road. I watched the tow guy get under the broken truck, hook everything up, and dodge traffic as he had to reach certain items he needed to properly hook up the broken truck. And then I had a moment of dread when I realized that we’re going to have to re-load all our stuff from the broken truck to a new truck. I was already both physically and mentally exhausted. Being stranded on the side of a busy highway for hours an end, takes a toll on you.
Fortunately, the Budget roadside assistance called to tell us that there was another truck waiting for us in Albuquerque, and that they would get us help moving our stuff to the new truck in the morning. In the meantime, we would be towed to Albuquerque New Mexico. Wow, towed 230 miles in a wrecker, that couldn’t be inexpensive. All because employees were too lazy to check the fluids.
They told us to find a hotel for the night and keep the receipt; they would reimburse us. I asked about hotel limitations, we did after all have two dogs. They said no limitations as long as it wasn’t $400 or something. I wrote down the address of where the new truck would be, and immediately started searching for hotel rooms near by. We had to meet the movers at 8am, and were already an hour ahead due to time zone changes. I didn’t want a hotel too far away.
I did what I could in finding a dog friendly hotel with decent reviews that wasn’t too expensive. But perhaps my stress levels kept me from being rational and reading the reviews clearly. Since I made a huge mistake. But I didn’t realize that until we got there. First, we still had 230 miles of being towed. Rob sat in the passenger seat of the tow truck as there was no room in our pickup truck, and I followed. I followed for 230 miles a tow truck towing a broken box truck with many of our expensive possessions that we had invested in for our business. Perhaps moving was not a good idea, and we should have considered relocating before starting the business. But the business was started by chance, out of necessity, so we could have never predicted this. So there I was, tired, ready to fall asleep, drinking coffee at 9pm at night to stay awake and follow a tow truck with bright yellow lights flashing in every direction. (Which was the reason the other AZ heavy tow truck driver could not drive in NM, he didn’t have those lights.) At least it was easy to follow a neon flashing massive Christmas tree of lights. I could see him a mile away.
The wrecker picking up our rental truck.
We got to the Budget truck headquarters in Albuquerque NM pretty late that night. We found the new truck left for us, but not a soul in sight. I called Budget roadside again, this time a new staff was there. We must have gone through three changes of shift by now. The guy read the notes on my account, and there were many. He finally told me the key to the new truck should be in the truck, and the movers will be there in the morning at 8am to move our stuff. So we locked up both trucks and left them over night, signed the paperwork for the tow truck driver, who had to drive back to Flagstaff AZ that night. Then we proceeded to our hotel room. Days Inn only a couple miles away sounded cozy enough, until we got there.
A Squalid Hotel
First, no one to be found at the desk. It was almost 11pm now. About two hours passed my normal bedtime. After about 15 minutes the only employee finally showed up. She seemed annoyed, and unpleasant. I told her I had a reservation, and asked if she had a room on the ground floor. She didn’t. I told her when I made the reservation that they said they had a room on the ground floor. Her annoyed response was that reservations were told to promise customers anything they want, and she has to deal with it. So I said fine, I’ll take what you got. She then warned me there might not be hot water, but she’ll try to put me in a room with hot water. This statement at first didn’t register with me. Nor did the location. And when she added that “the owners don’t care about this place, even though the carpets need cleaning, and the rooms need upgrading,” I again didn’t think much of it. So I just asked, “are the sheets clean at least?”, to which she thought for a second, and then said “I believe the cleaning staff do their job.” At this late an hour, with all the stress behind me and ahead of me, I really only cared about clean sheets. So I paid for the room, and proceeded to walk the dogs, while Rob unloaded what we needed from the pickup.
I should have read reviews a little closer, but I was stressed and tired. Upon walking into the room, not only was the filth evident, but I had immediate regrets. Sleeping in the pickup truck would have been more comfortable if there were only room. But at this point I was so tired, and we had to be up early. Plus you can’t sleep two people and two large dogs in most pickup truck cabs.
Based on all the warning signs throughout the buildings, we decided to bring in the stuff from the pickup truck, as the camper shell was not lockable. Upon checking for bed bugs, I was relieved not to find any. (You should check every room for bed bugs you stay in, no matter how fancy.) No sign of bed bugs was good enough for me. But the sight of the stains on the sheets told me not to get in my pajamas. Instead, I slept with my clothes on on top of the covers. I was out like a light.
The next morning, no hot water of course, lukewarm though. Enough to clean up the best you can in a so called hotel that was really a drug haven. I’m pretty sure I could have found any illegal drug imaginable there. It made Breaking Bad look tame. But they don’t make a pill to reverse time so I can go back to the truck rental day and check the oil. We loaded up the pickup truck as quickly as we could, attempted to drink the dishwater tasting coffee which we poured out, helped a nice young man jump start his POS car, then showed up back at Budget a half hour early.
Transferring our stuff and swapping trucks.
Transferring Our Stuff And Swapping Trucks
I opened the rolling door of the broken Budget truck and we both stared in awe at how nothing had moved, not even an inch. We had packed things well. We were worried that with the towing there would be unexpected shifting, but everything looked intact. And I was thankful at that moment that they were sending movers to help us. There is no way the two of us could have moved all that in a reasonable amount of time.
But it was a love/hate relationship with the movers. Even though we explained that there were items that although in boxes, just absolutely could not be stacked upon, they did their thing, and got to work. For fear of being one of those annoying snooty ladies that kept telling everyone how to do their job, I decided I couldn’t watch, nor could I help as there was only so much room. Rob was already participating, trying to make sure our fragile items were not stacked on bottom. I retreated to the pickup truck, and drugdignly called the Sparks Budget to get an extension on the truck. Yes, I had to get an extension on the truck from the very place that broke the truck in the first place.
This was by far the worst conversation ever. I had forgotten all about meditation, breathing, remaining calm. From the minute the location owner heard my voice from the second I started talking, he was back to being rude. He insisted for 15 minutes that I call the customer service. I call the receiving station. I tried to tell him I had done both, but he refused to let me get a word in, and kept talking and talking and talking, for about 15 minutes about the proper order of things. I thought in my head, ‘I already called customer service, I already called the receiving station, both told me I need to talk to the originating station. And when I originally rented the truck, the employee had specifically told me that I need to call them if I need an extension’. So I knew I was calling the right place, but the owner just kept on talking and not just talking, but being condescending as well. I finally yelled. I had lost it at that point.
“Actual photo of me losing it.”
He hung up on me. I called back, he didn’t answer, went to some answering machine. I called back again, he answered this time, and all I said was, “I already called customer service, and I already called the receiving station. Only you can extend my contract because the contract is with your station.” Silence. I thought he hung up on me again. I had to skip the “hello, this is such and such, with contract number such and such’ and get right to the point – it was the only way I could even get a word in. The silence didn’t last long. He insisted I had to pay to extend. I said “no, you gave me a broken truck, I’m not paying to extend. It took Budget two days to get me back on the road, I shouldn’t have to pay for that.” The condescension came right back, and in the end, for fear of something else going wrong, I agreed to pay for the extension of the extra driver and insurance, but not the truck itself. The owner reassured me that customer service would reimburse this amount, all I had to do was call them. I had a feeling he was lying, but didn’t want to risk driving without insurance, or the extra driver, since I wasn’t driving the truck at this point. You know the minute you don’t get the extra insurance is when something else goes wrong.
After I agreed to pay, and we were about to hang up, he said the strangest thing to me, and it told me that the owner knew something wasn’t right with that truck. After I paid the extra $72.66, he told me “That’s the only truck I had. If I had a different truck, I would have given you a different one at the time. But that’s the only truck I had.” Now why would you have given me a different truck if you believed there was nothing wrong with the one you gave me? The only reason someone would say something like that is if they knew or suspected the vehicle had a problem.
Perhaps that explains the rudeness, the condescending attitude, and all the bad customer service. He knew he was renting me a truck with problems. I bet he would like a pill to take him back in time too, so he could repair the oil leak, or at least refill the oil.
Time Efficient Movers
The movers finished moving our stuff in an hour. That was pretty amazing. Rob helped them, and later told me he had to keep correcting them. They were ignoring the directions of arrows on the boxes, and the order of stacking, and he feared some stuff may be crushed. At that point, I didn’t care, I just wanted this long nightmare to be over. We did decide to check the oil and other fluids of the new truck before we took off. I also found out from that Albuquerque Budget Rental how all the Budget Rentals are really all separately owned. It’s a franchise. They have little control over the trucks they get in to rent. But, they should be doing some kind of service inspection, depending on the franchise and their size. When I told him about the circumstance of the low oil in the truck, that NM Budget employee laughed, and said “that owner’s going to have a hefty bill.”
During the rest of the trip I thought about how much money Budget must have spent on everything related to this event, particularly towing the broken truck 230 miles. The cost of the first mechanic assessing the initial problem. The cost they would need to reimburse me for my hotel, change of flight, and trouble. The pain in my body from the combination of stress, exhaustion, discomfort, and cold wind. All of it could have been prevented if just one person at Budget actually gave a crap.
The rest of the trip was uneventful. We pushed through for fear something else would go wrong. So we only had one more hotel night. We got to our destination at dusk, and were able to unload the basics so we could get a restful night’s sleep. The next morning we finished unloading, and returned the rental truck to the receiving office. I had changed my flight (for a hefty fee), and arranged to fly back two days later. In the end, it all worked out, sort of. I still had to call customer service about compensation. And we had a few unhappy customers as our online store was closed during this fiasco. But I attempted to reach out to each customer to make it right.
Customer Service Nightmare
Dealing with Budget customer service was a different story. First, they are not in the US, and are literally trained in what to say. I had submitted the cost of the hotel, food, change of plane ticket expense, and the extra added charge of the $72.66 to extend the truck, however, I didn’t have the actual receipt for the $72.66, just a screenshot of the charge on my credit card.
I was first told I would be reimbursed $91 for my trouble. Umm… repeat that please. $91? I did not agree to the $91. I asked for a supervisor. I was then transferred to a nice lady in Mexico City, who spoke English pretty well, but she was a robot. She agreed to refund me $272. That wasn’t even the cost of changing my flight. I disagreed. She kept repeating over and over that she is the highest level and that was all she was authorized to offer in compensation. I told her that if she is the highest level, then she is the owner of the company, and she could do much more. She hung up on me. She did give me an email first and told me to send my receipts there. So I sent my receipts and a very descriptive email of everything that went wrong.
After many emails back and forth, I ended up just more frustrated. There I was with the break down and being stranded on the side of the road fresh in my mind, the nasty hotel that I can’t seem to wash out of my hair, the crappy food I ate as I only planned for four days of travel, and their email responses were useless. You know those spam emails you get, where they start of with “Dear, due to an unfortunate circumstance of the death of Ms. Zimbabwe, we would like to work with you in regards to the receipt of a ridiculous amount of money.” You know, one of those emails where their goal is to get you to provide them with your banking and other personal information, so they can rob you? Anyway, it was the “Dear” that got me. That was probably the worst part of all the email communications between myself and Budget. They made it clear I was not dear to them.
In reality, the people sending the emails, it’s not their fault. They are in a foreign country, likely Central America, just trying to earn a living. The person who hung up on me admitted to being in Mexico City. So Budget, like most other larger corporations outsource their customer service phone jobs outside the US. I find nothing wrong with that per se, other than how employees are treated. I can’t speak for Budget, but I have a friend in Nicaragua who used to work for a Western Union call center, and he would often describe to us the sweat shop conditions under which they worked. 48 hours a week for a mere $400 a month gross. Can’t be late or you’re fired, breaks are very strict to non-existent. And of course, they have to deal with angry people all the time, angry people like me. I tried to be mindful of this knowledge when I was making my phone calls, but when you’re stranded on the side of the road with no food, or toilet, and have no idea what to expect, what’s next, or information, no amount of meditation can put you at ease. I know, I tried.
Anyway, so it was the “Dear” in the email that finally made me realize that I’m not going to get all my money back. That I will have to find other means. The $72.66 required I get a receipt, which means going to the Sparks Budget in person to ask for one before I can request a refund. I could go around in circles and circles, and let my blood boil every time I was referred to as “Dear”, or I could take my loss in money in exchange for not wasting any more of my valuable time (which clearly Budget doesn’t respect either), accept the reimbursement as it was, and move on with my life.
An Epic Failure
So that is what I did. I accepted the reimbursement for the hotel, food, and plane ticket. Which I’m still waiting for at the time of this writing by the way. So to Budget rental: this is an EPIC FAILURE of customer service. I will NEVER do business with you again. And I warn everyone to not do business with them again. Ever.
But… I also wrote this article, to warn others about renting these types of trucks in general. When I finally returned two days late and was picked up by a friend at the airport. I told him what had happened, and he told me how he once rented a U-Haul, and there was still a lock on the back of the U-Haul, which was not noted until he was checking the truck over. They cut the lock with bolt cutters, only to find a broken end table still in the U-Haul. So it’s not just Budget, but other rental places likely neglect their vehicles in the same way.
In addition, the heavy tow truck driver told Rob during the 230 mile tow, that he had towed all brands, and named every single one we’ve heard of and others we hadn’t (Penske, U-Haul, Ryder, Budget, etc.). So just because I name Budget in my personal experience, it’s only because that’s who I rented from. But I’m sure others have horror stories as well. Otherwise how else would they have such scripted answers ready for callers like me? So the moral of the story is caveat emptor with all rental truck companies. And go re-read the tips at the beginning of this article.
Now back to business…
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